The Fort Benning Doughboys’ season finale Thursday will be broadcast around the globe, courtesy of Ron Barr’s Sports Byline USA radio show.
The Doughboys (2-2) wrap up their historic first campaign in three decades against the Team James All- Stars, a semipro squad from Atlanta. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Doughboy Stadium.
Barr, host of the nationally syndicated sports radio network, will lend his play-by-play voice for the game. It can be heard on the 200-station Sports Byline USA network, SiriusXM Radio and the CRN Digital Talk Networks. In addition, the American Forces Network will carry the game on 500 stations in 177 countries.
“I come from a military family, (so) anything I can do to help,” said the longtime sports broadcaster, announcer and journalist. “There’s something special about military sports. As a kid growing up on different bases, you go watch the football and basketball games. I have a real emotional connection to military athletes, and there are some darn good athletes out there.”
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Barr is a friend of Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general. As a colonel in 2005, Brown invited Barr to do his show in Iraq. Since then, he’s taken it to Afghanistan and Iraq half a dozen times.
In May, Barr brought a group of NFL coaches, analysts and former players on a visit to Fort Benning. He broadcast a two-hour live show from Sand Hill.
When Brown told him the post football program would return this fall for its first season since 1983, Barr said he vowed to come back and announce a game.
“I’ve done a lot of play by play in my career, but this one is unique,” he said. “Everyone has rallied to make this possible, and they’ve all been so helpful. It’s a little out their realm. A number of people down there at Fort Benning have helped to make this as easy as possible.”
Barr has called games for a handful of college and professional teams, including Pac-12 members Washington and California at the NCAA level and the Boston Celtics and former Seattle Sonics of the NBA. However, preparing for Fort Benning’s clash with the Team James All-Stars has been a bit different, he said.
He said he’s had to pool much of the accumulated statistics, game notes and depth charts on the two teams that isn’t readily available. At college and pro venues, a sports information director or team public relations representative normally provides that package.
“I’m not complaining — this is not what either team does on a regular basis,” he said. “Everyone has been wonderful pulling together the stuff I need to have. Any time you do a ballgame under unusual circumstances, it’s a little like a spacewalk.
“Everybody’s got to be on the same page because there’s a flow to a broadcast. You’ve got all this multitasking going on and you’re trying to make it all sound coherent. It’s a challenging task.”
Barr said there is football talent in the military ranks, and he’s impressed by what he’s seen and heard about Doughboys quarterback Blake Powers, a two-year starter at Indiana before earning his commission in the Army.
“Someone like Blake really stands out,” he said. “Some of these guys maybe haven’t played for a while. But they’ve got to play and can’t stay out of the game for eight to 10 years and expect to have the same proficiency.
“At the military level, their execution would be better if that’s something they practiced and focused on all the time, but that’s not what their day job is. During the day, Blake is throwing grenades, and at night, he’s throwing footballs.”
The game is open to the public and free for spectators. Doughboy Stadium gates open at 6 p.m. Thursday, while pregame activities and entertainment start 30 minutes later.
The Fort Benning Silver Wings parachute demonstration team will jump in with the American flag and deliver the game ball. Veterans will be honored at halftime.
Barr said broadcast preparations will keep him from participating in any tailgating or pregame festivities. But he plans to visit with Soldiers and Families after today’s Doughboys workout and following the game.